The author of Wombat, Mudlark and Other Stories and Backyard Birds, Helen Milroy, has been named WA’s Australian of the Year

Just days after receiving the Australian Mental Health Prize and right in the middle of NAIDOC Week 2020, Fremantle Press First Nations children’s book writer and illustrator Helen Milroy was named the WA state recipient of Australian of the Year 2021.

Before she became a children’s book author and illustrator, Professor Helen Milroy was Australia’s first Indigenous doctor and a highly regarded expert in child and adolescent psychiatry who pioneered research, education and training in Aboriginal and child mental health, as well as recovery from grief and trauma. Helen’s first book, Wombat, Mudlark and Other Stories, was informed by her work in the field. The book celebrates emotional intelligence and encourages young people to feel proud of their imagination, their energy, their optimism, their family connections, their thirst for knowledge, their bravery and their ability to make us laugh.

Helen said her guiding belief has always been that children are a gift and if we invest in our kids today, we will have a successful nation tomorrow. Speaking at the ceremony, which took place at Perth’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Thursday 12 November, Helen said, ‘I think throughout my career I have seen both the frailty and strength of the human spirit and some of the best and some of the worst of humanity, and I think that’s what’s driven me to try to do better, to stand up, to speak up and to do better.’

Helen Milroy is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia and was born and educated in Perth. In 2018, Helen received the Australian Indigenous Doctor of the Year Award, recognising her many achievements.

She has supported the Aboriginal and medical workforce in applying Indigenous knowledge and cultural models of care, played a key role on mental health advisory committees and boards and was a commissioner for the Australian Government’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse from 2013 to 2017. She was also Australia’s first Indigenous AFL commissioner. Helen is currently the co-director of Embrace and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Telethon Kids Institute, and is the Stan Perron Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Child and Adolescent Health Service and the University of Western Australia (funded by Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation).

Helen Milroy’s books Wombat, Mudlark and Other Stories and Backyard Birds are available in all good bookstores and online. Her new picture book, Backyard Bugs, will be published in April 2021.

Helen will now join the other state and territory finalists at the official announcement of the overall 2021 Australian of the Year on 25 January 2021. More information is available here.

Books discussed
Wombat, Mudlark and Other Stories
Backyard Birds

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